The first inkling that you are nearing the soul soothing sanctuary of Verdura Resort are the flags. Fluttering wildly in the south westerly wind, the colours catch the eye immediately, vibrant, regal, and alive on the beige canvas of the landscape.
They signal the entrance, a pathway carved out of the countryside that leads you from the dusty, mountainous road down to the waters edge. A hidden haven.
It is easy to miss, you may find yourself stumbling recklessly upon it without much thought, such is the effect of the memorising, endorphin releasing scenery. It is equally as easy to get to. Fly into Palermo or Catania, either way, you are only one and a half to two hours away. The drive takes you through quaint Sicilian villages, some hugging the rugged coastline where snatches of pristine white sandy beaches can be seen. Ancient Greek and Roman sites tower boldly on the hills above, as you coast along some of the best kept asphalt roads in the European Union. No potholes in sight.
Taking a sharp right, you reach the sangar. Once cleared, the ten-minute journey through the resort begins. It is vast. Yet in a very homely way.
230 hectares of vastness to be precise. Manicured lawns, palm trees, olive trees and orange groves, all on the backdrop of the Mediterranean coastline. The colour drenched terracotta and mustard flat rooved buildings line the route to the heart of the resort. A unique architectural wonder that caters to an environmental ethos alongside a modern need. To get here, you have passed the Spa, Verduras’ twelfth century tower, a Clubhouse, which could be mistaken for a hotel itself, and of course the famous golf course, the blueprint on which everything is focussed.
It has a distinctly desert feel. Nothing is garish or loud. Amongst the activity there is a quiet hush. Tranquillity beckons.
This is an enclave that you do not need to leave. However, if you want to circle back for a lobster lunch, you can always take one of the Porsches from the garage for a fee.
Should you arrive in your own transport the valet will park your car. Reception staff greet you with a cool relaxing drink. The foyer is a masterclass in history and again architectural magnificence. White alabaster busts of Greek and roman muses and horses are hung on the sandstone walls.
Horses remain a theme. In Greek mythology they were a symbol of wealth and status. They fit in perfectly. Speaking of status, should you require complete anonymity, the staff are very happy to check you in under an alias and distract any paparazzi should they come knocking.
After a smooth check in, you are handed the keys to your Verdura golf buggy, surname already emblazoned on the front for ease of identification. And so, begins the navigation along the labyrinthian pathways to your room. This is a treat. You do not have to be a golfer to commandeer your own buggy. Although there are certain rules about the optimum direction of travel and of course speed, you can park your electric toy anywhere, even driving over the grass, coming to a sudden halt by the superb infinity pool. It is hedonistic, reckless even and it feels good.
Alighting from your chariot, a flight of steps leads you down to the room. Unlocking pandoras box, the opulent black four poster bed swims into view. That and the sliding doors that lead to the patio, golf course and beach beyond. A plater of local fruit and pastries is a welcome addition. The bathroom is heavenly, a marble sunken bath nestles alongside a full-length window. Thankfully, with one-way views of a lemon tree in your own private courtyard. There is a marble massage table, a rainbow shower and toiletries by Irene Forte, the daughter of the eminent Sir Rocco Forte, founder of Rocco Forte hotels.
Irene had a vision to develop natural skincare products and since 2008 she has pioneered Irene Forte Skincare, which uses natural ingredients sourced from Verdura Società Agricola, the organic farm at the resort. Everything is grown chemical free and with over 2000 olive trees around a copse of 20 lemon trees, 3000 orange trees, pomegranates, almonds, prickly pear cacti and rows of vegetables and beautiful botanicals she is spoilt for choice.
Family is core to the Rocco Forte brand. Olga Polizzi, is the eldest of the late Lord Forte’s five daughters and is a younger sister to Sir Rocco. Olga and architect Flavio Albanese designed Verdura Resort’s 168 rooms, 32 suites and 3 villa suites. Charles and Lydia, again, son and daughter of Sir Rocco also take pride of place in ensuring the Rocco Forte Hotels maintains its position as a world leader in luxury.
In developing Verdura Resort family remained at its heart, so much so, there is a range of activities for both adults and children. Golf, of course, is top of the list for many. Both the 18-hole championship and the nine-hole par three course were designed by Kyle Phillips. With views of the Mediterranean, clement weather, and top-class equipment, Verdura is the perfect place to practice your swing.
If you love academies there are plenty to choose from, Juventus Academy for football, tennis academy, diving academy and fencing academy. If an academy seems too daunting, relax with a boat trip, admire the Greek temple of Hera from the sea, with a prosecco in hand or a frosty Sicilian beer.
Or simply rest. Boost your vitamin D on the private beach or visit the spa. The spa and wellness centre are a housed on a 4,000 square metre pavilion set around an open-air courtyard. There are infrared and Finnish saunas, an indoor lap pool and outdoor thalassotherapy pool circuit. Thalassotherapy is a medical cure that uses seawater to heal. Who doesn’t need some healing at the minute?
Mind taken care off, turn to your body. With more than 3 restaurants to choose from you will not be stuck for variety. Amare sea food restaurant is perfectly placed at the beachfront, serving freshly caught fish and sea food. Ask for ‘pesce crudo’ or ‘thinly sliced fish’ marinaded in olive oil, citrus fruit juice and salt. A ceviche style method of eating fish loved by the Sicilians for centuries. It is essential that the raw fish be freschissimo or extremely fresh, at Verdura this is guaranteed.
For a more glamourous dining experience, head to Zagara, named after the fragrant orange blossom, that scents estate. The outdoor terrace is perfect for watching the sun set over the infinity pool. Sample the Sicilian style hake, chickpea fritters, tomato, oregano, and pine nuts. Finish with the Olive tree platter and Sicilian assorted cheeses and marmalades.
For a glorious sun basked breakfast, Buen Giorno is the place to be. The aptly named restaurant serves refreshing and cooling Sicilian granita, a local sorbet made with fruits from the estate. Enjoy it with a spoon or more traditionally, a “brioscia col tuppo’, a roll of brioche.
Resting on the shelf amongst the driftwood in your room is a book by Guiseppe Tomasi de Lampedusa entitled ‘The Leopard’. Whether it was strategically placed or happened to be unintentionally deposited as a nod to Sicilian life does not matter. It is a sublime read. The Leopard is a story of a decadent and dying aristocracy threatened by the forces of revolution and democracy. Set against the political upheavals of Italy in the 1860s, it focuses on Don Fabrizio, a Sicilian prince.
“In order for things to stay the same,” says Tancredi, Don Fabrizio’s nephew “Things will have to change.”
No better time to reflect on the past and plan. At Verdura Resort you can recharge, reset and regain. Just follow the flags.
For more information visit: Luxury Sicily Resorts – Verdura Resort – Rocco Forte (roccofortehotels.com)